What is God’s Work?

by Acharya Ratnananda (from The Speaking Tree, June 16, The Times of India)

Once a proud but benevolent king sent for his prime minister and said, “All of us have some definite work or assignment to perform. A king rules, a soldier fights, a trader trades, a teacher teaches and a preacher preaches, though as individuals they do other things also. Then what is the primary function of the Creator? Can you answer my question?”

The minister was puzzled. No one knew, and no book ever explained what God’s work was. After some thought, he said, “I, too, have often wondered about this like you. But my duty here is to advise and assist you on worldly affairs. This involves spiritual matters and the right person to answer you is our bishop.”

When the king repeated his question to the bishop, the bishop asked for a week’s time to reply. At the end of the week, the bishop was sitting under a tree on the outskirts of the town, thinking whether to face the king’s wrath the next morning, or to run away from the kingdom.

A shepherd boy who was passing by enquired about the cause for his worry. The bishop brushed him aside, saying he was deeply worried about a spiritual matter. The boy was quite insistent, and so the bishop related his trouble, without any hope of solution or solace from the boy.

“My dear master,” said the boy, “is that all that worries you so much? Please go in peace to the king. Tell him that the shepherd boy knows the answer.”

The surprised bishop begged the boy to give him the answer, but the boy preferred to meet the king in person. So the bishop went home, and the next morning he was at the court when the king eagerly asked for a reply.

“My dear king!” said the bishop, “i need not have taken so much time or trouble to give you a reply. However, i would request you to call for my shepherd boy who will give you a satisfactory answer.”

The surprised king immediately sent for the boy, who promptly presented himself before the king. His appearance was repulsive to everyone, but the court awaited his words with interest.

“You, shepherd boy,” said the king, “do you know the answer to my question which even learned scholars are not aware of?”

The boy paused for a while and said, “My dear sir, before i answer your query, may i request that proper protocol is observed. You are a student, as far as this question is concerned, since you want to learn. I am a master as i am to give you the knowledge. Normally the master occupies a higher seat than the student.” After some hesitation the king slowly came down from his throne and let the boy sit on it. So eager was he to know the answer!

But the boy, after ascending the throne, was calmly enjoying the new-found dignity and did not speak for a while. Impatient, the king shouted at the boy, “You fellow! Where is my answer? What is God’s work?” The boy calmly replied, “Here’s the answer, to push down the haughty and to push up the humble – that is God’s work!”

This is one of the 1,50,000 stories found in the ancient puranas, which have relevance even in modern times. This story, and more can be found in Acharya Ratnananda’s book “Tales for the Young and Old”

Acharya Ratnananda (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s father) left for his heavenly abode on June 8. Vaikunth Aradhana on June 19 at the Art of Living International CentreBangalore. Priti Bhoj at 10 a.m. All are invited.

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A few Recollections about my Grandfather

Truly Grand in every sense of the word, my grandfather means the world to me. Growing up with grandparents is such a blessing. I was three years old when Arvind, my younger brother was born in Bangalore. After spending three years in Pondicherry (about 200 miles from Bangalore) on the East Coast, I got to move to Bangalore, where my mother’s parents lived. My father’s parents passed away before I was born, and I never got to see them, but I was extremely lucky to be able to grow up with my mother’s parents.

Grandparents, somehow, always know the right thing to do and say. They have more experience than our parents no doubt, and that teaches them a few tricks ☺ Their patience and love, and their gentle way of teaching us as children has left an indelible impression on both of us, and we will always appreciate them for this.

I remember asking my grandfather (Tatha) to narrate a new story every night – and he would tell me the most wondrous stories of King Vikramadiya, of Wise Sages, of Tenali Rama, and many many more from the Upanishads and the Puranas. Each night, Arvind and I would look forward to story time with Tatha. And Tatha would relate them with such interest and attention to detail, that he would make the story come alive in our mind’s eye. Each story had a moral to it – and through these wondrous and light hearted stories, Tatha was able to instill a sense of morality and uprightness in both of us. When we were with Tatha, there was always time for fun – and he would spoil us with toys and chocolates – at one point I had very few teeth left – mostly chocolate stained ones 🙂

Tatha was also the one who evoked the traveler in us – every summer, he would take my grandma, Arvind and me on a journey to temples, national parks and monuments. He was learned in such a wide range of knowledge on so many different topics, and he had such a unique way of interpreting stories and the myriad symbols in the temples. He would explain why different towns or cities were named that way, and would get us thinking rationally and encouraged us to cultivate a scientific temper.

For Tatha, the world was a beautiful play of Divine consciousness – in the plants, in the animals and birds, and in people, Tatha saw that Divine spark. A deeply spiritual man, he was not one for following rituals and superstitions. He always told us about the Oneness of Divinity – and that it was one Divinity that manifested in so many thousand forms. He encouraged us to question prevalent customs and rituals, and never believed in the rigid separation that the caste system had caused in society. Explaining that the ancients used the “Varna” system to help continue trades and professions, because it was easier in those days to learn from your father, he believed that all individuals were created equal and that everyone had a right to education. His belief was mirrored in the way he approached Vedic education coupled with modern science at the schools that he helped start.

Tatha’s role was crucial in starting two big organizations dedicated to spirituality, science, and service.Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth, an educational non-profit institution and VISTA-India, an institution dedicated to women empowerment. Right from a young age, he inspired us to share, and share alike. When he would bring us a chocolate, he would encourage us to share it with the other children in the neighborhood. Whenever someone would come home, he would ask us to come and meet with and spend time with them. He helped us cultivate our social skills and got us to feel comfortable and friendly with people of all ages. He would take us to meet with the children of Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth and the young women learning tailoring and computer skills at VISTA-India and encouraged us to continue on the path of service to society.

Today, both Arvind and I feel extremely grateful to Tatha for all his love, guidance, and support, in becoming who we are. He once told me, that when most men pass, they go horizontally, after spending many years of relative quiet. He said that he did not want to go that way, he preferred to serve and pass away vertical, in action. This statement of his remains true. He returned from the VISTA-India Project site two weeks ago, and was ready to return on May 16th. However, his health condition did not allow him to do so, and he passed away on June 7, 2011.

He always taught us to pray – not just for ourselves, but for the welfare of all life in creation. On this day, I pray for the welfare of all life, and seek blessings for this noble soul. Even after his passing, he will always live on in my heart and in the way I look at the world. He is truly my GRAND Father, and he has made my life so Grand.